Your iPhone or Apple Watch will let you ride NYC subways and buses this week

Put away that paper MetroCard, New York City subway and bus riders, because the power of Apple Pay is expanding to the largest public transit system in the US.

Starting on Friday, May 31, Apple Pay Express Transit is going to enable tap-and-go contactless payments at key metro stations using an iPhone or an Apple Watch.

We've been seeing the NFC readers screens pop up unannounced at certain NYC metro stations over the last two months, specifically at Grand Central Terminal.

This is part of MTA's phased plan for its OMNY card (short for One Metro New York) to replace MetroCards by 2023. Apple Pay and Google Pay are along for the ride, so to speak.

It'll start at 4-5-6 trains between Grand Central and Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center, and Staten Island buses, with a plan to cover all subways and buses by late 2020.

How Apple Pay Express Transit works 

We haven't been able to test Apple Pay Express Transit yet (check back on Friday), but know that the system works on devices running iOS 12.3 or watchOS 5.2.1.

You'll also need a new-ish iPhone or Apple Watch from the last four years – iPhone SE, iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus or later, and Apple Watch Series 1 and 2 or later (so anything but the original Apple Watch).

Image credit: Apple

Image credit: Apple

What we like best of all: Express Transit will work without you having to unlock your phone, open an app, or use Face ID or Touch ID. That should make your commute more seamless.

In addition to updating your phone or smartwatch to the latest stable version of the OS, you'll need to make sure your credit or debit card is setup for Express Transit. 

There are two ways to do it: Go to Settings > Wallet & Apple Pay > Express Transit Card > and authenticate with Face ID or Touch ID. Second way: You can open up the Wallet app tap, the [...] button in the top right, select Express Transit Settings, and authenticate.

Not for everyday New Yorkers... yet

We're keen on testing the future of seamless subway payments in New York City on Friday, but this contactless payment system won't be for everyday commuters.

Right now, it's designed for single fare rides, meaning our fellow weekly or monthly straphangers won't be able to use the system for their needs just yet. 

The same goes for anyone who benefits from buying multiple rides at once for small value-added savings from the MTA. That's still going to require a MetroCard for now. 

Really, this works best for tourists and casual riders. NYC commuters will have to wait for fare options to expand in 2020, when all subway and bus routes will be added to the system.

Check back on Friday when we test out Apple Pay Express Transit in New York for its maiden contactless voyage.

Matt Swider